Swansea University Home - 2010 - 2011

Public Lecture - Making Impact in the Humanities: Linguistic Research to Improve Quality of Life in Older People

Alison Wray, Research Professor of Language and Communication at Cardiff University, is giving a public lecture on Thursday 25 November as part of the Research Institute for Arts and Humanities public lecture series.  (If you missed this lecture, it is now available to view here.) 

The lecture will focus on how linguistic research can contribute to improving the quality of life of older people, particularly those with cognitive degenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease. Linguistics spans the Humanities and the Social Sciences, and draws from both research traditions in exploring how language works and how it is used in our social world.

The lecture will also consider a number of case studies including a well-meant, but counter-productive, attempt to stimulate language through a proverbs game in a day centre for people with dementia. Opportunities for future research will be outlined, including the need for a large corpus of language spoken by older people that can be used as a normative reference point when diagnosing cognitive decline; and practical ways of using training to influence carers’ use of language and their understanding of its impact.


The Research Institute Arts and Humanities public lecture will be held on 25 November, 2010. Refreshments will be served from 5.15pm, and the lecture will start at 6pm.The lecture will be held in the Wallace Lecture Theatre, Wallace Building, Swansea University – all welcome. For further information email: riah@swansea.ac.uk or telephone 01792 295190.

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More Information

 Alison Wray is an internationally recognised leader in research into formulaic language (strings of words that trip off the tongue as if processed like a single word, including idioms, proverbs, greetings, and common expressions).

 Formulaic language is a feature of fluency in our first language, but also strongly signals identity. It plays a major role during development and is a key variable in the level of success people have in mastering another language after childhood. Formulaic language is remarkably resilient in language disorders, including aphasia and Alzheimer’s disease, and helps repair and sustain communication when other aspects of language ability are reduced.

 Prof Wray has published two major research monographs on this topic, Formulaic language and the lexicon (CUP, 2002) and Formulaic language: pushing the boundaries (OUP, 2008) as well as numerous papers reporting theoretical and empirical studies, including several on the evolutionary origins of language. She has held research grants from the AHRC, ESRC, Nuffield Foundation, Leverhulme Trust and IELTS, and is currently principal academic investigator on a two-year WAG-funded project to develop research-driven improvements in Welsh for Adults teaching across Wales.

 Professor Wray  is also collaborating with Dr Tess Fitzpatrick of Swansea University in an ESRC project on word association responses—one of a series of investigations into the genetic basis of language, using data from two Australian Twin Studies, one on adolescents and one on twins over 65 years of age.


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